Thursday, January 07, 2010

Larger Screen Amazon eBook Reader

Kindle DX Wireless Reading have announced the Amazon Kindle DX International, a larger 9.7 inch screen version of their international eBook Reader. This has a 3G wireless modem, allowing for use around the world. The unit has the same format as the smaller 6 Inch screen unit.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Oxford University Online Courses

Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education appears to provide the equivalent of the Cambridge University Online Courses. There are short introductory courses of 10-weeks for undergraduates, advanced diploma and postgraduate courses, as well as specalised professional development courses. An example of the undergaduate program is the one year Advanced Diploma in Data and Systems Analysis. One interesting professional development course offered is in Effective Online Tutoring (a problem with providing online edcuation is where to get trained tutors and one solution is to use the system itself to tran them).

Unlike Cambridge, Oxford provides an online demonstration of how their courses are presented. Oxford uses the same Australian developed Moodle Learning Management System, as I have used for developing courses at the Australian National University and the Australian Computer Society. They use the same structure of giving the student a summary of a topic, have them do some further reading and then report what they have found and discuss it in a forum online.

One limitation with the Oxford courses is that while the University of Oxford offers short undergraduate and postgraduate coruses, it does not offer undergraduate degrees or MBAs via distance or online learning. Perhaps this limitation will disappear over time, as the University gains experience and confidence in online education.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cambridge University Online Courses

After suggesting to my colleagues at the Australian National University School of Computer Science (SoCS) we use an e-Oxbridge educational model, I thought I should check to see how Oxford andr Cambridge apply e-learning. A quick web search found the Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education, which offers online courses specialising in adult and non-traditional learners. The Institute clims: "unparalleled level of online support and direction from experienced and enthusiastic tutors", whichfits with the Oxbridge model of education. However, these are short general interest and proessional devlopment courses, not full degree programs.

An example is "The global climate challenge: policy technology and the future" (COV007), an 11 week course costing £165.00 and offering 10 credits at level 4 of the Framework for higher education qualifications. The award requires participation in online discussions, a Personal Statement of Learning (e-Portfolio) and assignments. Six such courses would be required for an undergraduate "Certificate of Continuing Education" (Postgraduate courses are at FHEQ Level 7).

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Propose an e-Oxbridge education

Having spent some of the week discussing the future of higher education, with Professor Paul Ramsden and my colleagues at the Australian National University (including my contribution on "Forums and Feedback for e-Learning"), I felt it was time to suggest a way forward. I have proposed an e-Oxbridge educational model for the ANU School of Computer Science (SoCS) .

SoCS has ambitious goals set for "unique", "advanced", "interdisciplinary" and "research lead" undergraduate and masters courses. To achieve this, I have proposed a computer enhanced version of the "Oxbridge" model of education. With this approach at Oxford and Cambridge Universities (where I have given the occasional seminar) students are part of a community of scholars, write and discuss material with their peers and their tutors each week. This can be adapted to the 21st century:
  1. Human communication: I suggest teaching all students how to research, write and report. While most undergraduates will not go on to postgraduate research and therefore not need to write a scientific paper, they will have to write technical and business reports which require similar skills. Therefore I suggest teaching how to write and present an argument in the introduction to undergraduate and postgraduate programs. I have done some of this in Green ICT, where I get the students to research and discuss issues online and write a reports about a real problem.
  2. Self motivated work: In each course I suggest setting the students a task, giving them the tools and then helping them with the work. In practice this would be done by providing learning materials in traditional written form, as well as multimedia, as used by the "Hubs and Spokes" project. This would then free up staff time to work with the students in small groups and individually. This would also force a discipline on staff, who would need to carefully design course materials in advance. Also this would allow administration to be greatly simplified, with less need for timetabling of classes and resources. This would aid social inclusion, with full and part time students could in the same class, along with domestic, international and remote e-learning students.
  3. Interdisciplinary skills: I suggest designing SoCS programs to fit in with ANU wide programs and those of partner universities. In this way students will be able to study subjects outside Computer Science in other parts of the university.
Instead of developing whole, self contained undergraduate and
postgraduate programs which are exclusive to SoCS, I suggest SoCS have modules which can fit with other disciplines and can be used by other disciplines. A student should be able to do a standard undergraduate or postgraduate program at the ANU which incorporates SoCS education. While the SoCS programmes might have fancy names, such as Bachelor/Masters of Advanced Interdisciplinary Computing", they should underneath be made of ANU standard components. Ideally the courses should be able to be tailored by the students themselves, as is done with ANU Graduate Studies Select.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

International Version of Amazon Kindle e-Book

Kindle electronic Book have announced an international version of their Kindle electronic Book reader. This is designed to work with 3G Wireless mobile phone networks outside the USA, including in Australia. The international version has a 6 inch screen (smaller than the USA 9.7 inch model). While wireless access is free in the USA, it appears that usual data charges will apply in other countries (these charges could be considerable). The device could be useful for e-learning.

Technical Details

Display: 6" diagonal E Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8" x 5.3" x 0.36" (203.2mm x 134.6mm x 9.1mm).

Weight: 10.2 ounces (289.2 grams). ...

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low-coverage areas or in EDGE/GPRS-only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours via the included U.S. power adapter. Also supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: HSDPA modem (3G) with a fallback to EDGE/GPRS ...

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle U.S. power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: U.S. power adapter (supports 100V-240V), USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery ...

Documentation: Quick Start Guide (included in box) [PDF]; Kindle User's Guide (pre-installed on device) [PDF]. ...

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Google Book Search Mobile Version

Google have conducted a very low profile launch of a mobile version of their Google Book Search. This allows you to search for books using a mobile phone and view the full contents of some of them. Google are using Web for display: that is HTML with JavaScript is used for an interactive web interface. One problem seems to be that the interface depends on JavaScript. Using the Opera web browser with JavaScript turned off I was unable to view the books. There appears to be no "Basic HTML mode" as there is with the desktop version of the book search. One good feature is that the mobile version can be used on a desktop web browser, which may be of use if you have limited bandwidth.

There is no use of PDF or other e-Book formats. An example is "Oliver Twist". In practice you need a smart phone with larger screen and a keyboard to make this practical. One limitation is that there are very few free books currently available. Most of the searches I conducted for free books only found historical documents hundreds of years old. Another limitation is that older documents appear to be in the form of page images, rather than real text. This will result in them taking longer to download and be harder to read on a small screen. These are limitations which other e-books have as well.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

E-books for the Australian Army

The Australian Department of Defence has issued a Request for Tender for "Provision of Computer Based E Books for Health Services at Army Logistics Training Centre". These would be used for medical training. An electronic book (e-book or ebook) is an electronic document designed to replace a printed book. The RFT does not make clear if it is for e-books, or e-book readers, the specialised tablet computers used to display the books. E-books are typically formatted in PDF and some type of HTML.

Apart from specialised e-book readers, small notebook computers (such as netbooks), PDAs and smart phones can be used. A good example of this is the OLPC, which has a rugged case, low power transflective screen which can be read in sunlight and which can be folded back over the keyboard to format a tablet computer. The OLPC would make a very useful semi-rugged and low cost e-book readers for the military.

See also, from

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